A Freudian Analysis of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Written in 1823, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is about a brilliant but unorthodox scientist, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, who creates life out of nothing. However, he rejects his artificial creation causing his Creature to escape and later seeks revenge against his creator. It is considered a classic among the millions of books written through human history and it deserves the title too. Throughout time since it was created, people have analyzed the work of text through every lense of criticism they could think of. In terms of the psychoanalytic criticism, whether Shelley intended it or not, there are hidden themes within the text that alludes to the fact that Freud’s id, ego, and superego are all within the classic. with the id being the Creature, the ego being Victor and the superego being Henry Clerval and his father.
Psychoanalytic criticism is theories built on Freud’s ideas regarding psychology. It adopts the methods of readings that Freud put forth and other theorists to interpret the text of any author. To Freud, the literary text expresses the unconscious desires and anxieties deep within the author. The piece of literature is just a manifestation of the secret mind of the author and it is believed that characters are a projection of the author’s own psyche. The author’s own experiences (childhood trauma family life, sexual conflicts or fixations) are what theorists look for when analyzing the characters within the book. Like New Criticism, however, psychoanalytic criticism is now always concerned with what the author intended when writing their text. Rather, it is what the author did not intend that theorists seek out. The unconscious mind is always censored by the conscious mind according to Freud.
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) is considered the ‘father of psychoanalysis’. He was a physiologist, medical doctor, psychologist and influential thinker of the early twentieth century. Working with Joseph Breuer (notable physician in neurophysiology), Freud elaborated the theory that the mind is a complex energy system. He is most known for his work that refined the concepts of the unconscious mind, sexuality, and repression, and he also proposed a three-part account of the mind’s structure known as the id, ego, and superego. This was all a part of “a new conceptual and therapeutic frame of reference for the understanding of human psychological development and the treatment of abnormal mental conditions” (Thornton). Most of the manifestation of psychoanalysis that exists today can be traced to the fundamentals Freud provided in his original work.
Freud discovered that the desires and unconscious conflicts of a person brought out three areas of a person’s mind that wrestle for dominance as they grow from infancy to childhood to adulthood. One is known as the id, which is the basic human desires and instincts. It is the impulsive (unconscious) part of our minds that responds immediately to...